Helsinki: Cool Finlandia

Helsinki: Cool Finlandia

A high-rise district in Helsinki designed by Lahdelma & Mahlamäki architects.


Finns are justifiably proud of their design heritage. Finnish design has become a hallmark of national life and culture since independence was achieved in 1917. Inspiration derived from nature emerged as a driving force and remains characteristic of the country’s design culture to this day.

Its people are starting their second century by creating a fitting design showcase on the shores of Helsinki harbour. Aspiring to be “the most attractive museum in the world”, it also aims to be much more than just a building.

Good design isn’t just something you see or touch, but something that you experience. A Canadian writer who fell in love with Finnish design more than 20 years ago describes the vital way in which it infuses national life in the following way:

“It begins the moment you step off the plane at Helsinki’s Vantaa airport, follows you everywhere and stays with you long after you’ve gone…”

Finnish design is more than just a pretty object. It is a way of living. Design here is woven seamlessly into everyday life and surrounds you wherever you go. Good design is timeless. When you find something that works you keep it.  Nothing is too old….”[1]

A concept outline for a new museum of architecture and design was delivered to a steering committee of state, municipal and museum stakeholders in August 2018. Report findings were publicly released at the end of March by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the City of Helsinki.

Caption: Ilmari Tapiovaara demonstrating the stacking of Domus chair, 1947

By displaying its collections and telling its stories, the new museum will aim to show how design has shaped the world that Finns share. But it will be much more dynamic than a dusty retrospective survey. Helping people engage in a discussion about architecture and design is seen as a key part of its role and a way of tackling future problems and challenges.

The intention is that the museum will be user oriented and ambitiously experimental. The heart of the museum will consist of a core exhibition, the largest and most important in the Nordic region. Design will be on display, but it will also be part of an engaging experience for all visitors to hold, grasp and touch. Patrons will be able to test futuristic solutions virtually. The museum will be both a platform and a partner for engagement by design practitioners and members of the public.

A new governing foundation, created from the merger of existing bodies, will oversee detailed planning and building of the new institution, which will be run by a company. It will be located on the shores of Helsinki’s south harbour and it is hoped that the new museum will spur the revitalisation of the area.


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